NAPLES — The city of Naples and the union representing the city's firefighters could know sometime early next year whether either side used an unfair labor practice during contract negotiations.
A hearing officer with the state's Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC) held a hearing Tuesday to review labor complaints filed by both the city and union.
Both complaints, filed earlier this year, contend the other side didn't bargain in good faith during contract negotiations.
The fire contract expired in September 2011 and both sides have spent much of the past year trying to negotiate a deal. Pension issues have been a sticking point. A special magistrate was in Naples in August for an impasse hearing to make a recommendation on the pension issue. That recommendation hasn't yet been handed down.
This week's hearing gave both sides a chance to present evidence and explain why the other side wasn't bargaining in good faith. The hearing lasted more than five hours Tuesday, and Roger Reinke, the assistant city manager and labor relations manager, said the city and union now have until Jan. 2 to submit briefs to PERC summarizing their case.
Reinke said he doesn't like to speculate what the outcome will be, but is hopeful the hearing officer will rule in the city's favor.
"The city believes the union accepted (a pension proposal) at the special magistrate's hearing to further delay the implementation of pension reform," he said. "That's what we believe, and that's why we filed an unfair labor practice against the union."
The union contends the city failed to bargain in good faith by rejecting the union's timely acceptance of its pension proposal and by deeming the parties still at impasse.
Adam Nadelman, the union's president, is optimistic the hearing officer will rule in the union's favor.
"We feel pretty confident about our presentation," he said. "In our opinion, we didn't do anything wrong."
The hearing officer is expected to rule within 45 days.